North will choose its fateChristopher Hill, the chief U.S. envoy to the six-party talks, will pay a three-day official visit to North Korea starting today. He is scheduled to conduct in-depth discussions with the North over its nuclear programs, along with his counterpart, Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye-gwan. If the two come to an agreement in an amicable manner, the negotiations on the North Korean nuclear issues will get through this crucial phase of “disablement,” heading for the final phase ― “abolition.” Discussions on the normalization of relations between North Korea and the United States, as well as the establishment of a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, will gain rapid momentum. However, if they fail, it is inevitable that the North’s nuclear negotiations will be crippled for quite some time.
The report about the nuclear programs will be a milestone in judging the North’s willingness to disable its nuclear programs. The United States insists that the North report the following details: a detailed production record of its plutonium, which is needed to make a nuclear weapon; the current status of its uranium enrichment programs, which triggered the second Korean nuclear crisis; and clear answers about whether the North transferred nuclear materials to a third nation, including Syria. Unless the North sheds light on those three issues, they say the North’s denuclearization is open to doubt. As hawks in the U.S. administration step up the pressure, Hill is in a difficult situation. He must persuade North Korea to meet all of the criteria. He carries a heavy burden upon his shoulders.
North Korea has strongly denied the presence of the uranium enrichment programs or any nuclear connections with Syria. However, the United States maintains that it already has enough evidence to cast doubt on the North’s allegations. Therefore, simple denials are not enough. The North must provide a fact-based report and explanation. It is not a matter of self-esteem. The North’s fate rests upon whether it can successfully tackle economic crises as a full member of the international community or whether it will remain in its walk toward isolation and failure.
The presidential chief secretary for national security, Baek Jong-chun, will visit Washington at the same time to talk about declaring the end of the Korean War with the U.S. administration. It is pitiful that the Roh Moo-hyun administration is bent upon declaring the end of the Korean War itself. Most importantly, every relevant state should concentrate on helping the North report its nuclear programs diligently.